Sunderland vs Leeds United Preview: Two of the Championship's six unbeaten sides face-off

Two of the Championship's six unbeaten sides go head-to-head on Saturday evening, as Sunderland host Leeds United in the league for the first time since 2006.

Simon Grayson and Thomas Christiansen have both got off to solid starts to their careers in the North-East and Yorkshire so far, but will that change come the final whistle?

Black Cats off to a solid start despite tough fixture list

With Sunderland's squad in disarray heading into pre-season, pundits believed they would get off to a rocky start against play-off hopefuls in their opening few games with Derby, Norwich and Sheffield Wednesday their first three opponents.

An opening day draw at home to the Rams showed promise and was followed by an impressive 3-1 win at Carrow Road last week, while they had to settle for a draw at Hillsborough after taking the lead in the fourth minute through George Honeyman.

Honeyman is one of a number of players who have impressed in a red and white shirt in the first few games of the season, with summer signing Aiden McGeady quick off the mark with a goal and two assists to his name after three appearances.

Didier Ndong and Lee Cattermole are forming a central midfield partnership which is strong defensively at Championship level, although the pair are lacking somewhat in terms of attacking creativity.

The last time Sunderland hosted Leeds was a 1-0 FA Cup third round win in 2015, while the two most recently clashed heads in the league in 2006 when goals from Grant Leadbitter and David Connolly secured a 2-0 win and lifted the Black Cats closer to the play-offs.

With Sunderland sixth and Leeds seventh a similar result would propel the hosts closer to the automatic promotion spots, although that won't mean a great deal to Grayson so early on in the season.

Embed from Getty Images

Leeds a tough nut to crack under new boss

While Leeds are unbeaten so far under new boss Christiansen, the Dane will be wary that his side have drawn both of their home games 0-0 and were tested by newly promoted Bolton Wanderers in the season opener as they won 3-2.

New signing Samu Sáiz's hat-trick in the Whites' 4-1 win over Port Vale in the Carabao Cup showed they can find the net, albeit against lower league opposition, and they need to test a Sunderland side whose weakest aspect is their backline.

Central midfielder Kalvin Phillips started the season in good form by scoring a brace at Bolton while last season's club top scorer Chris Wood netted in the same game, although his side have failed to score in two of their three league games.

Christiansen admitted after his side's home stalemate against Fulham that his players "need to be a bit more dangerous up front" after mustering just one shot on target over 90 minutes.

Their opponents have not kept a clean sheet in the league yet this season and Christiansen must set off to test the Black Cats rather than soak up the pressure if he is to come away with three points on Saturday.

Team news

The hosts are still without Duncan Watmore, Paddy McNair, Jack Rodwell and Bryan Oviedo due to various injuries while young striker Josh Maja will also not be involved after being sent to a knee specialist to treat an injury he picked up four weeks ago.

Leeds meanwhile have defensive trio Gaetano Berardi, Matthew Pennington and Liam Cooper unavailable for Saturday's game although Christiansen described the latter's injury as "nothing serious" following his exclusion from the squad against Fulham.

Predicted line-ups

Sunderland (4-4-2): Steele; Jones, Koné, Browning, Galloway; McGeady, Cattermole, Ndong, Honeyman; Grabban, Vaughan.

Leeds United (4-2-3-1): Wiedwald; Anita, Jansson, Shaughnessy, Ayling; Phillips, O'Kane; Aliosi, Sáiz, Hernández; Wood.